Convenience stores

The best convenience stores on the West Shore

Tony and Naomi Ko in front of the Metchosin Country Store in Metchosin. (Bailey Moreton/Press Team)
Jimmy Lam inside Goldstream Food Market in Langford.  (Bailey Moreton/Press Team)Jimmy Lam inside Goldstream Food Market in Langford. (Bailey Moreton/Press Team)
Anoop Dhami outside the Devonshire Flowers & Food Market in Langford.  (Bailey Moreton/Press Team)Anoop Dhami outside the Devonshire Flowers & Food Market in Langford. (Bailey Moreton/Press Team)

Convenience stores are the unsung heroes of a community’s commerce. They are often open late, every day of the week with a small staff (if any) and generally operate with tight profit margins – especially last year during the pandemic.

But behind the basic essentials, soda fridges and chocolate bar shelves are places steeped in history and the people who have made their stores pillars of the community.

Many are part of the daily routine of residents. Here are four convenience stores with over a century of operations between them.

Metchosin Country Store – 4384 Metchosin Road, Metchosin

Taking over a pillar of the community can be a daunting task.

The Metchosin Country Store is approaching its centenary, first built in 1930 by William Clay and named the William Head Service Station, the store has been a mainstay of rural Metchosin ever since. When Tony Ko and his recently deceased wife Adrianna took over in 2004 after immigrating from South Korea, they were immediately welcomed by the community, Ko said.

“A lot of friendships have been made here because of how welcoming everyone is, which has allowed us to adapt not only to Canadian culture, but also to Metchosin culture.”

Ko says 90% of his customers are regulars, people he sees daily in the community. The importance of the Ko family and, by extension, the store to Metchosin was evident in the outpouring of support when Adriana Ko died in August after a long battle with cancer.

Over time, Ko tried to expand his store’s offerings, including branching out into items it didn’t previously offer, such as clothing for some of the older clientele living in Metchosin.

“We try to provide everything people need, so they don’t have to drive or leave town.”

Corona Low Cost Foods – 2155 Sooke Road, Colwood

When Jimmy Lam graduated from high school, he had no trades training and was looking for work. His parents suggested he buy the convenience store his sister ran on Sooke Road. The store had changed hands several times in its early years (Lam said the store was first opened in the 1970s), but since Lam bought it in 1991, it’s been around ever since.

In the early years, it was mostly a family business.

Lam said his dad was the driving force behind it all. Her father, Tony, died six years ago, and her mother, Jean, 85, spends less time at the store now. But Lam said there were still plenty of familiar faces who came in regularly. Some have been coming for almost 25 years.

“It’s like a small community. People come just to say hello and stay for hours. We chat, have coffee and play. It’s very important to me,” Lam said.

Lam has five or six regulars who often come into the store and say it’s his favorite part of being an owner.

“Dealing with customers, talking to regulars. It makes the days go by faster.

While Lam still enjoys owning the convenience store, business has toughened up. People management and COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic have been difficult. On several occasions, he had to step in and defuse an argument that was about to turn into a physical fight, something he never imagined he would have to do when he opened a shop over 30 years ago. Apart from these cases, the community has been very supportive during the pandemic.

Looking ahead, Lam said the store would likely close whenever he decides to retire. His son is 17 and often helps out in the store, but he warned him against taking over the store.

“There’s not a lot of money to own the store, but I’ll keep it open for a while. I like it.”

Goldstream Food Market – 976 Goldstream Avenue, Langford

Jimmy Lam is a busy man.

After doing the Corona Low Cost Foods interview the day before over the phone, we hadn’t met in person. When he rushed out from the back of the store to the counter where I was waiting, I didn’t know who he was. When I introduced myself and he said he was Jimmy Lam, my response was, “Wow, you’re busy; how do you do?”

Lam owns Goldstream and Corona and works there with his brother Nick (who worked in Corona while Lam was at Goldstream.) Lam also runs the U-Haul rental store next door.

“I work seven days a week, I run around like a headless chicken. People say, ‘How do you work so hard?’ But you get used to it. You have to do what you have to do. The only time we come down is when we are sick.

Lam prides himself on his work ethic and customer service. He receives regulars from Langford but also from further afield.

“Sometimes when people go to Corona but don’t see me, they come there instead.”

Devonshire Flower and Food Market – 808 Goldstream Ave., Langford

There have been many changes in Devonshire.

Anoop Dhami says the history of Devonshire, located on Goldstream Avenue near Peatt Road, drew him to the store when he took over in 2019.

“This store has served generations, not just customers, but generations. The grandmothers came, and the grandchildren now come to do their shopping. So this store has history.

Built in 1958, the surroundings of the store have changed a lot. Dhami says he plans to switch stores with Langford. Inside, the Devonshire portion of the store is covered in tarpaulin, where behind Stan (The Reno Man), Hollebone redesigns the store’s appearance. Dhami hopes to turn the business into a tobacco shop, focusing on offering new types of cigarettes and cigars.

“He gets excited when he walks into Costco to see how they do things. He gets to see how they set things up in terms of retail,” Hollebone said.

As the interior changes, the exterior has also changed. Dhami commissioned a painter from Victoria to do a mural on the white wall outside Devonshire, to commemorate part of Devonshire’s history.

“Langford is changing, and so are we. Always keeping old traditions and values ​​but opening up to the new generation.


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